SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Yankees higher-ups finally broke their month of silence, which apparently served as a properly protracted moment of silence for a dreadful season that deserves a proper burial.
To recap a strange day in Yankee land: After owner Hal Steinbrenner assured the media in a 30-minute zoom call that significant structural changes may or not be made, general manager Brian Cashman provided the main event, sparring with reporters over “what’s real and what’s [BS]” regarding their oddly off year. (For one thing, he claimed the narrative that too much emphasis on analytics is to blame for 82-80 is dead wrong.)
While it’s hard to know what to make of a swirl of rhetoric on Day 2 of the general managers’ meetings here, go behind the scenes, and there’s activity to suggest they are determined not to repeat the “disaster” that was 2023. That’s the real story.
Steinbrenner declined to get into any real specifics beyond a greater interest in bunting, but word here is the Yankees are investigating the top of the hitting market. Which is exactly what they need after a season in which they registered the lowest batting average of every team currently trying (that is, everyone except the Oakland A’s).
The overall hitters market is noticeably weak, but it’s also extremely top heavy, which could play into the Yankees’ favor since they have the wherewithal to acquire one of the top three available or semi-available offensive forces. Word is they intend to bring in “one pitcher and one hitter,” and it’s their good fortune two superstar hitters are available, and one other may become available, and that all three are left-handed, which is basically a prerequisite now.
In ascending order starting with least likely to acquire to most likely, they are:
- Shohei Ohtani.
- Juan Soto.
- Cody Bellinger.
While very little new or specific was heard on the Steinbrenner call, he did concede hitting was their biggest issue and also confirmed that they’re willing to consider the top dogs.
“Everything is on the table when it comes to free agents,” Steinbrenner said.
Club sources say the Yankees will check in on Ohtani if they haven’t already (everything surrounding Ohtani remains pretty mysterious so far). The Yankees don’t seem like a favorite since they weren’t even a finalist the first time, but he’d fit them beautifully as the most powerful left-handed bat in the game.
Considering the short porch and his otherworldly power, Ohtani could aim to break the home run record in The Bronx. And what better place to do that than as Aaron Judge’s lineup mate in the ballpark that suits him best (as a hitter, anyway)?
Of course, the big city could be an issue. His handlers will tell you he will consider everything now that he’s had the chance to travel throughout Major League Baseball. However, the Yankees recall from the first go-round that Ohtani honestly told him he couldn’t see himself in such a big burg a few weeks before he signed with Anaheim, which is technically the smallest town that houses an MLB team even if the Angels now claim to reside in Los Angeles.
The Yankees did try for Soto back at the deadline, but ran into the kind of difficulty they may encounter again, which is that it’s just not in the Padres’ DNA to sell. Their ticket sales are huge again for 2024, their nucleus is still star-studded even with five free-agent pitchers and most folks believe that while they’ll listen, they won’t pull the trigger on a Soto trade this winter.
The Yankees’ best hope to revive their lineup with one move is probably Bellinger, and they’ve already touched base on the free agent who returned to superstardom his first year on the North Side of Chicago. The Yankees are said to like Bellinger, and in a way, he fits best, since he can play center field or first base at an elite level.
When Cashman wasn’t executing a spirited defense of their operation in the face of a game press corps — of their operation, he said, “I think we’re pretty [bleeping] good] — he admitted they could use two outfielders, including a center fielder.
The competition for Bellinger’s services will be keen, and the incumbent Cubs, who made the deal of the winter signing him for $16.5 million for 2023, will be a formidable combatant. Word is, he loved his year there.
This will take serious bucks, as Bellinger is a 28-year-old free agent with three monster seasons under his belt. But the Yankees should have a decent chance since they have the wherewithal and the need. While Steinbrenner didn’t repeat Cashman’s former assessment that their 82-80 season was a disaster — Steinbrenner upgraded it, if only slightly to “completely unacceptable” — the Yankees should have a real chance there.
It’s hard to imagine their organizational meetings alone — Steinbrenner called it three straight days of eight or nine hours — will solve their serious offensive woes. An upgrade in their “processes” (a Steinbrenner word) can’t hurt. But what they really need is some serious production.
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